Jay Fergusonjay@deepcreekvacations.com301-501-0420

Garrett board to discuss which elementary schools to close

Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News Sat Sep 11, 2010, 07:58 AM EDT

— OAKLAND — The Garrett County Board of Education will hear administrators’ recommendations Wednesday on which elementary schools to consider closing at the end of the current school year.

The recommendations will be made as part of the board’s regular September meeting, which will be held at Southern Middle School. Public comment periods are scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. The board will take up the public portion of its agenda at 5:30 p.m.

Superintendent Wendell Teets will recommend a school or schools for closure based on input from administrative staff members, but the board can add other facilities to the list as it sees fit.

In the coming months, each school named for consideration will be studied by an advisory group made up of parents, school representatives and community members. The groups will look at things like building condition, transportation, student relocations and the potential impact of a school’s closure on the community.

Teets said he will be selecting people to participate in the advisory groups. The advisory groups will report their findings to the board of education.

According to a schedule adopted in August, the board will also conduct public hearings in November at each of the schools being considered for closure.

Meanwhile, a group of parents, municipal officials and other concerned residents from areas like Crellin, Bloomington and Kitzmiller have organized a coalition called the Small Rural School Focus Group to advocate for keeping all existing elementary schools.

Matthew Paugh, a spokesman for the group, said it’s been meeting at least monthly and holding information conversations with board members and county political candidates on the issue.

“We’re in a holding pattern until we see which schools we’re dealing with,” Paugh said. “Once we know that, we’ll develop specific strategies with those communities to fight back.”

The final decision on which, if any, schools will close won’t occur until March 8. By law, a decision must be made no later than April 30 if a school is to be closed for the 2011-12 academic year.

School officials have attributed the proposed consolidation partly to a budget crunch caused by major state funding reductions. Funds have been lost due to decreasing Garrett County enrollment and because of changes in the way the state calculates aid per pupil.

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